Our 2017 National Aboriginal Day was run in partnership with the City of Surrey this year and was supported by multiple donors! It was a great turnout with well over 1500 attendees.
#Moccasinsonthemove – Christine’s Story
Christine came to Surrey from Edmonton where her family originates. She was always known to be her families “safe haven”, when problems arose she was the person her family turned to for support. She was always a happy go-lucky hard worker who never needed the support of social assistance, never let addictions over-run her life, and always had her own home that she lived and paid for independently.
She left Edmonton for her children, to give them a better life, so she came to Vancouver. Her and her partner lived in Surrey and began a life together raising their children. Christine’s life took a turn when her partner and the Father of her children ended the relationship and asked her to move out. She had nowhere to go, nothing but a backpack of her belongings. She was never homeless before, and now she was in a big city with no support system to turn to for help. She says, “I looked around and realized how do I start? I have nothing.” She ended up going to a shelter that night for the first time ever. She lived at Lookout here in Surrey, where they referred her to the Aboriginal Homeless Outreach Program (AHOP). Within a day the AHOP worker had her setup in a Womens Home in New Westminister.
FRAFCA continued to support her, giving her bus tickets so she could see her children, as well as supported her during Christmas so she was able to give them gifts.
Whilst Christine was living in her Womens Home she got pregnant, she was 6 months pregnant when she had a stillborn baby. To Christine her children are her life, losing her baby absolutely threw Christine into a whole other world of pain and sorrow. She needed her family and community support but had nowhere to turn to. Christine was always the rock of her family, she was the essence of “home” as most women in our Matrilineal culture. Feeling alone she turned to drugs to be able to feel anything but the disconnected loneliness that she was never used to.
Her addictions took over and she lost her home and was left to the streets. She ended up living on the downtown Eastside, Hastings, where the community that was just as lonely became her family and for a while it filled that void within. This void which is so often created when an Indigenous person leaves their home communities to come to the concrete jungle; A world unfamiliar to the spirit within us, so it leaves us grasping for anything slightly recognizable-any type of community.
Eventually Christine was able to ask for help after continually living in shelters, she was supported by the shelters outreach worker to find a home through BC Housing. She lived in her own home in Vancouver and continued to use and remained disconnected with her family back in Edmonton.
One day her brother from Edmonton showed up at her doorstep. She asked what he was doing there and as he pushed passed her he saw all her drug paraphernalia on the table. He said he was worried about her and her lack of communication with the family. After months of her continued use of drugs her brother decided it was time for him to pack up and go, she asked him why and he told her, “I’ve been here for 6 months now and I haven’t seen any change happen, if I leave it might encourage you to actually get some help. You need help.”
Christine was hit hard with reality when her brother left, her loneliness kicked in full force, she was homeless again and had no place to go. It was in that moment that she decided it was time to get some help, so she entered 90 day treatment at the Hannah House. She completed her 90 days and then moved onto Second Stage housing.
Christine now sober is working at the Hannah House as a House Mother.
Christine has reclaimed her life and has a newfound sense of self-love and community that didn’t exist since living on the Mainland. All of her trials and tribulations allowed her to be able to find work in the very place that took her in at her worst. Her story now holds water, it has substance and meaning, the days of pain are not lost on her. Her story is now singing songs of victory for her reclaimed connection to the sacredness that lives within, that we all forget exists sometimes, it has allowed her to reclaim the strength of her ancestors and she is now the matrilineal leader for her family that her blood only ever recognized.
In what way will you reclaim your story today?
#MoccasinsontheMove – Brave Bear’s Graduation
I’d like to start this story out by saying how honoured and privileged I am to know the young man that this story is about. He goes by the name of “Brave Bear”, and brave he is! The name is so fitting, bears are well known for their sensible forward thinking attitudes that crave stability. The bear people are well-known for desiring to “fix” things when they sense an injustice lurking in the forest, this is where bear shows courage and critical thinking skills.
All of the things about the Bear People perfectly describe our client Brave Bear, he has overcome so much in his short time here on this plain. He is an old soul written into the story of our modern day to bring teachings of bravery, courage, and resiliency.
Brave Bear and his Mama Bear first came to know about the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association (FRAFCA) in the midst of a life-crisis where their basic necessities of life were compromised. Mama Bear found out that due to some unfortunate circumstances that her and her son were going to be absolutely homeless and they had one day to find a new house in the midst of the housing crisis. They were at that time homeless living in hotels, motels and couch surfing. They were left with no place to go, and no money to attain anything that would afford them a safe home. Mama Bear and her Brave Bear were in crisis. Brave Bear was not attending school regularly as he wasn’t able to attain an address.
When all of the stress of not having a home for so many months, not having her son able to attend school, and at their absolute bottom it finally came crumbling down. The “Survival Mode” that they had been living in so long had now taken it’s toll on this family. Mama Bear finally met her complete breaking point at Surrey Central Station where she was in tears and in distress talking to her son about their situation. A passerby overheard her and gave her a card for the Aboriginal Homeless Outreach Program (AHOP) at FRAFCA. She put the card in her purse and didn’t give it much thought at the moment, the stress of the situation didn’t allow her to think past the immediate circumstances at hand.
Mama Bear remained in a place of complete crisis over the duration of the day, time was running out they had no place to go. Brave Bear being the “fixer” he is told his Mother, “why don’t you call that phone number you got today?” Mama Bear with nothing to lose called and spoke with the AHOP Worker at FRAFCA. The AHOP worker let her know that all would be okay, she would help in all ways she could to find them a home. Within a day the AHOP worker was able to find her a home, financially supported the transition, setup the family with services to move their things, and filled up their fridge with groceries. Mama Bear and Brave Bear were able to breathe knowing that they had a stable and safe roof over their head for the first time in months.
The AHOP Worker and other Housing workers continued to build a connection with the family over the next year. In the following months Brave Bear and his Mother fell on some hard times and were having financial difficulties. Brave Bear felt the need to take care of his new home and his Mama Bear so he came to FRAFCA to announce he would be leaving school in order to financially support the family. The Housing team made him a deal. They said, “if you promise us to graduate then we will assist your family with a rental subsidy,” Brave Bear being a man of resiliency and courage agreed. By this point he had already missed 5 months of school. This is when he decided to go to school in East Vancouver to catch up. He transited from Surrey to East Vancouver every single morning for months in order to catch up on the work he missed. He attended school everyday in all conditions in order to maintain his bus pass that his school program would pay for under the agreement the student had perfect attendance. Brave Bear was able to catch up in all his school work and continued to stay in connection with FRAFCA for the duration of his schooling.
This year we were proud to attend Brave Bears highschool graduation. This young man had defied all odds, defied the status-quo, and stood brave in the face of all that was meant to tear him down.
He is now in contact with the Indigenous Youth Urgent Needs Worker who has set him up with new work gear so Brave Bear can work over the summer. He plans to join the trades in September and his ultimate goal is to become a trained Red Seal in his choice Trade.
We have no doubts that this young man will accomplish whatever he sets his mind to in his lifetime.
Thank you for your story Brave Bear, thank you for showing others that courageous, brave young warriors like you still do exist- you are a true trailblazer.